Oscars 2023: The Academy lets Andrea Riseborough keep her nomination


The case is finally settled: Andrea Riseborough can keep her Oscar nomination.

After a week of controversy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences met on Tuesday to assess whether the intense social media campaign that contributed to Riseborough’s surprise Best Actress nomination for “To Leslie,” a little-seen independent film, holds up. to the organization’s guidelines. While the Academy found no reason to withdraw the nomination, it found a flaw in unspecified “social media and outreach campaign tactics” and announced it would raise those concerns with responsible parties.

“Given this review, it is clear that elements of the regulation need to be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive and unbiased campaigning,” Bill Kramer, CEO of the Academy, said in a statement, adding that the changes would be made after the close of this grant cycle.

While Riseborough’s performance as an alcoholic struggling after winning the lottery in “To Leslie” garnered praise from critics, it failed to impress in its own right, earning less than $28,000 during its limited theatrical run.

The 41-year-old English actress surprised audiences by garnering a Best Actress nomination last week – alongside Ana de Armas, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams and Michelle Yeoh – which drew attention to the unusual push behind it.

Just as voting for the Oscar nominations began, dozens of prominent actors began sharing praise for the low-budget film and its starring role on their personal social media accounts. Actress Mary McCormack, the wife of “To Leslie” director Michael Morris, reportedly coordinated much of the effort, personally encouraging people to watch online and share their thoughts.

Many posts contain similar language, including the now-viral line describing “To Leslie” as “a little movie with a giant heart.” Gwyneth Paltrow posted a photo to Instagram of her standing next to Demi Moore, Morris and Riseborough, who she said should win “every prize there is and any prize that hasn’t been invented yet”. Edward Norton wrote in a rare post that Riseborough gave “the most committed, emotionally deep, physically gripping performance I’ve seen in a while”. (Though Norton has previously stated through a rep that he hasn’t posted in regards to the Oscars.)

Blanchett, one of the Oscars front runners himself gave Riseborough a shout-out in her speech to the Critics Choice Awards.

Riseborough has worked steadily for the past two decades, appearing in the Oscar-winning dark comedy “Birdman,” the political satire “The Death of Stalin,” and several horror films. While actors often praise their peers in public arenas, reports of her performance in “To Leslie” increased noticeably in the second week of January – just in time for the voting period for the Oscar nominations. Actress Frances Fisher even went so far as to share multiple posts about Riseborough, at one point addressing the Academy’s acting department directly and writing a detailed description of the voting process.

TCM host and Entertainment Weekly Awards correspondent Dave Karger said that while he believed the controversy over Riseborough’s nomination was overblown, the Academy is “smart about dealing with this and understanding how social media is changing the game.” Matthew Belloni, a former Hollywood Reporter editor who co-founded the media company Puck, called the organization’s consideration of Oscar campaigns in the social media era “the greatest legacy” of the debacle.

“There’s a whole economy around the Oscars, and it’s all based on the legitimacy of the awards,” Belloni said. “If prices are tainted by this specter of nepotism, it will impact their legitimacy. That is something the Academy should be concerned about.”

Of course, he added, “there’s been favoritism in the Oscars since literally the second year they’ve been handing them out.”

The Academy has become more transparent about its inner workings since the #OscarsSoWhite backlash in 2015, a year after the board of directors announced its goal of doubling the number of “women and diverse members” on the voting body. Last year, the organization was elected president Janet Yang, who was described in a press release at the time as “instrumental in launching and enhancing various Academy initiatives in member recruitment, governance and equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Much of the criticism of Riseborough’s nomination described it as a disdain for Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”), each of whom was nominated for major front runner awards. Multiple industry experts argued that while the Academy certainly has some way to go in terms of recognizing black talent, that’s a different conversation than the one about Riseborough.

“With all these high-profile awards shows televised and reported on, even regular movie fans have become accustomed to the [idea] that certain artists have earned a spot in the Oscars race at some point,” Karger said. “These are all different vocal organs and different people. Just because one person has three other nominations doesn’t mean they automatically get the fourth.

The Oscars use a ranked-choice voting system in which members of the Academy rank the contenders in order of preference. This can create narrow margins between those who land a nomination and those who miss out. If the vast majority of voters ranked either Blanchett (“Tár”) or fellow front-runner Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) as their No. 1 choice for Best Actress, the threshold to select one of the remaining three slots would have been quite low. With a small number of votes making a difference, there’s no guarantee that Davis or Deadwyler will finish sixth; Riseborough might as well have “exorcised” contenders like Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”) or Jennifer Lawrence (“Causeway”).

Riseborough has in some ways become a scapegoat for the Academy’s own failures, suggested Melissa Silverstein, founder of Women and Hollywood, an initiative that advocates for gender diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. Silverstein described Riseborough as an actress who “has spent decades toiling beneath the surface of the recognition she’s earned”, saying it’s a shame this situation occurred “in a year with only incredibly extraordinary black women in leading roles.”

In an ideal world, according to Silverstein, there would be room for more recognition of actresses.

“It’s a multimillion-dollar game,” she said, “and we’re all part of it.”

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